Sunday, November 28, 2004

ALAS ALEXANDER. Hey, wouldja like to read a review of Alexander by someone who actually saw it, as opposed to critics who just have a hate-on for Oliver Stone? Well, here's one anyway: it's not very good. In the better sort of Stoner movies, his obsessions are strung like Christmas lights along an at least semi-coherent narrative. The through-line of Alexander is probably no more muddled than that of The Doors, which of all Stone's films Alexander most closely resembles. But while Stone did a good job of showing why people were attracted to Jim Morrison, as well as of showing his insane drive, this Al the Great doesn't have anything but the drive. People follow him against their better judgement because they're in his army and have no choice, and his gracious gestures (like his kindness to the Baylonian royal family) don't add to his appeal -- in fact, in the long run they just seem to make his lieutenants more confused and dispirited. Contrast that with Pacino's Tony D'Amato in Any Given Sunday, who had to win validation for his blood-and-thunder ideas from Jamie Foxx's recalcitrant, strong-willed Willie Beamen.

That leaves the crazy Stone moments just hanging out there. I love that stuff, of course. What would JFK be without lines like, "Daddy, are they going to kill us like they killed President Kennedy?" (Not to mention, "Wait, I don't understand -- you mean they killed Kennedy because he wanted to change things?") Here we have a dissipated Alexander preparing to toast the dawn with a huge bowl of wine, in which is suddenly reflected the image of Angelina Jolie with snakes coming out of her head. (I expected Colin Ferrell to request an O'Doul's instead.) And there's a violent wedding-night encounter ("You love heem?") straight out of late Peckinpaugh. These, along with the superb sets, battles, and effects, make Alexander watchable but, alas, unworthy of recommendation to any but the most incorrigible Stone fans.

I have praised Team America and panned Alexander. By National Review Online standards, that makes me a hard-right-winger! I await the resulting influx of page visits.

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